It wasn’t a good showing in general from the Eagles’ offensive line on Sunday in Washington, but Doug Pederson liked what he saw from Nate Herbig.
At least, he liked it enough to make it seem like Herbig is the starting right guard going forward.
“I thought Nate did well,” Doug Pederson said. “Wasn't perfect, but for his first start, he's a smart guy, and he graded well. As of right now as we move forward, we're going to continue to work him in there at right guard, and I think he'll get more and more comfortable the more reps he gets in there, and you know, works with [Jason] Kelce more and so again, it wasn't perfect, but really felt comfortable coming away with his performance.”
Yeah, so it sounds like Herbig is probably going to be the starter going into Week 2 after the somewhat surprising move made by the Eagles to start him in the opener.
Remember the Eagles’ transition at right guard this offseason:
Brandon Brooks —> Matt Pryor —> Jason Peters —> Matt Pryor —> Nate Herbig
The Eagles lost Brooks to a torn Achilles this offseason. When that happened, everyone expected that Pryor would be the starter; after all, he started in the playoffs against Seattle and held up OK. But then the Eagles signed Peters to play right guard. That’s where he stayed until Andre Dillard tore his biceps and Peters eventually moved back to left tackle last week. It seemed like it was pretty obvious that Pryor would then go back to starting at right guard but then it was Herbig in Week 1.
Why Herbig and not Pryor?
“We make these decisions based on quite a few factors,” Pederson said on Sunday, “but we felt that Nate had a good week of practice and he had the opportunity to start today.”
I’m not sure if that’s more of a positive for Herbig or a negative for Pryor.
Because while Herbig was an undrafted last year out of Stanford, he somehow leap-frogged Pryor, who was a sixth-round pick back in 2018. Pryor seemed like the Eagles’ top backup but he didn’t start at right guard or right tackle despite injuries. And then when Jack Driscoll came out, Pryor still didn’t get on the field. The Eagles went with Jordan Mailata ahead of him.
Watching Herbig’s performance on Sunday, there were definitely some ups and downs. We pointed out some downs as we looked at the eight sacks the Eagles gave up on Sunday. But Herbig had just three career offensive snaps before Sunday and got his first NFL start. So all things considered, he held up OK. But we’re not grading on a curve here.
Using ProFootballFocus, let’s compare Herbig’s performance in Week 1 to Pryor’s performance in the wild-card game last year:
Herbig in Week 1: Gave up 1 sack, 1 hurry, 2 pressures
Overall grade: 60.4
Pass blocking grade: 77.4
Run blocking grade: 49.3
Pryor in WC game: Gave up 1 sack, 3 hurries, 4 pressures
Overall grade: 59.2
Pass blocking grade: 59.3
Run blocking grade: 57.2
So overall, it didn’t seem like the Eagles got much more out of Herbig than they would have gotten out of Pryor and you could certainly argue that Pryor should have been out there instead.
But for whatever reason, the Eagles really like Herbig and it seems like they’re going to leave him at right guard as the starter.
It was clear just how much the Eagles liked Herbig pretty early last year. He joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford and they actually taught him the center position during camp. That’s a huge responsibility to put on a rookie and the Eagles wouldn’t have done that without trusting him.
Herbig barely played as a rookie but he’s still just 22 and is still the third-youngest player on the team behind just Jalen Reagor and Davion Taylor. He’s actually younger than eight of their 10 draft picks this year.
The Eagles obviously think Herbig gives them a better chance than Pryor. They wouldn’t have made the move otherwise. They better be right. Because Aaron Donald is coming to town this weekend.